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State after-school program makes a difference for students in Utah affected by intergenerational poverty.

By Cori Groth, UEPC associate director, College of Education

A study by the Utah Education Policy Center  at the University of Utah found that students who participated in after-school programs designed to serve those affected by intergenerational poverty performed better on year-end state assessments in English language arts, mathematics and science compared to their performance in the years they did not participate. Moreover, students in these programs also performed better the longer they were in the after-school program. Students tripled the average academic gains in assessment scores after attending for three years compared to the gains in scores for one year of attendance. The report that contains a longitudinal analysis of student outcomes can be found at

In 2014, the Utah State Legislature passed Senate Bill 43, Intergenerational Poverty Interventions in Public Schools, which was sponsored by Sen. Stuart Reid and Rep. Francis Gibson. SB 43 appropriated annual funding for educational programming outside of the regular school day to combat the negative influences of intergenerational poverty among children. A total of 9,475 students have participated in this grant program since 2014.

“We were thrilled to learn that the investments we have made as a state in supporting students affected by intergenerational poverty have paid off,” said Tracy Gruber, director of the Utah Office of Child Care at the Utah Department of Workforce Services. “This gives us concrete evidence that programs like these are working and should be considered as part of a systemic approach to increasing opportunities for all Utah students, regardless of economic status.”

Yongmei Ni, UEPC assistant director and professor in educational leadership and policy, and Wynn Shooter, UEPC assistant director, were the lead investigators for this study. They report that the positive and significant results from this study suggest that interventions like these are an important piece of a larger system for supporting students and their families affected by intergenerational poverty.

“We know from the research evidence nationally and locally that high-quality after-school programs can make a difference for students’ academic, social and emotional success,” said Shooter. “Now, evidence from the UEPC evaluation confirms that high quality after school programs can make a powerful difference for the students who need support the most in Utah.”

As Shooter noted, the findings from this study have immediate applicability.

“The evaluation results we now have on the impact of this program on students’ academic success can be used by educators and policymakers to leverage resources and design programs that will continue to work for our students statewide,” said Shooter.

The Utah Education Policy Center, housed in the college of Education, was recently selected as one of the National AfterSchool Association’s most influential in research and evaluation honorees. The distinction recognizes individuals and organizations who have been strong contributors of research and evaluation related to after-school programs and whose work has affected or could have an impact on large numbers of young people, families and after-school professionals.